Monday, November 3, 2008

Die In Peace

Hello! My name is K......... I live in Norway where I am studying nursing. I am writing an assignment about how to treat dying buddhists pain and I have a few questions related to this assignment: Is there anything a nurse working in a western hospital should know about buddhism to be able to treat the dying buddhists pain/illness? I've heard that a buddhist shall not be given medication which makes him drowsy when he is dying. Do you have alternative ways to ease his pain? What do a buddhist think about pain and illness? I hope you can help me answering these questions. Best regards, K.......

My Comment:

Hi K.......,
Thank you for asking me. I think we have to separate the issue into two aspects.

One; it is the relationship between a patient and accepted conventional medical care. I would say your job and responsibility concern this aspect. The other aspect is related to the patient's religious (or spiritual) belief. You are not responsible for this aspect as you are not trained or required to cater for everyone's belief or for that matter, everyone's whims and fancies.

Buddhists have a very different view in relation to life and death, especially in the eyes of an ordinary Caucasian with a Christian tradition and culture. It is very difficult to understand Buddhist concepts if one is not willing to open one's mind to a new paradigm of spiritual interpretation.

Buddhists are also ordinary mortals, subject to pain and sorrow, especially when the end is near. They are no different from anyone. Unless the patient is a very disciplined Buddhist, the standard curative care should be good enough. The best you could do is to follow his wishes within reasonable limits.

In the Buddhist perspective, birth and death is part and parcel of life. In Buddhist training, we are taught to contemplate this reality and inevitability of old age, sickness and death; so that when the time comes we can face death with equanimity. We believe that the mind is a different entity in itself. When the body cannot sustain itself, the mind will continue on its own journey in another life. It is therefore very important that the last thought moment of the patient be very peaceful before his last breath, for it will influence the next stage of its existence, which we call rebirth.

Under ordinary circumstances, it is easy to let the patient die in peace with full consciousness until the last moment. But when pain exists, it is a very different matter. It is up to the individual to choose according to his level of spiritual maturity and his threshold of pain.

There was this Buddhist English gentleman who was a very devout Buddhist. He suffered great pain in his last days. Initially, no pain killer was given as requested by him. However, when his days came nearer, the pain was unbearable, and for all compassion, pain killer was administered.

In Buddhism, there is no strict commandment to be followed blindly. The Buddha advised us to use our human intelligence and common sense to lead a harmless and noble life so that we can die in peace, hopefully without pain.
Smile from justinchoo :-)


nick owen said...

It is fine to post this on your blog

But I would have much preferred you to ask my permission before posting it.
Nick Owen

A true Malaysian said...

When a doctor treating a patient, he or she normally wouldn't ask what is the patient's faith, religion or belief. Frequently we can see many doctors are 'without religion'.

What a doctor would do is to do his or best for the patient under his or her care by administering medication that may cause pain and suffering of the patient in the name of trying to cure the patient. The level of pain and suffering one can endure is all depend on individual.

What make the difference amongst doctors whether he or she can feel the pain and suffering of the patient, but I can say this is very rare. A doctor would normally not emotionally involve with his or her patient.

Justin, maybe our Dr. Hsu can give more insights into this.

Justin Choo said...

Nick Owen,

Thanks; and sorry for being presumptuous on my part.

Justin Choo said...

A True Malaysian,

Very frankly IMHO and the little contact that I experienced with local doctors, there is not much that I would expect from them. Very sad indeed.

But definitely, there are very caring and dedicated doctors around, although in the minority.

Common folks like me have to take extra care of our health, lest we be in trouble if really sick!!

A true Malaysian said...


Caring indeed is the best medicine for a patient, not drugs.

Haha, why not you try out our Dr....You know which one?

Justin Choo said...

A True Malaysian,

I wish I could pay for his return airfares to come to Penang to attend to my slight flu!


Anonymous said...

I've never doubted my life to be my
real thing & pers. purpose, therefore I'm happy to let you receive my own labor offer, i.e. for us both & a good labor lawyer to start working as PIs to be, the sooner, the better, anyway, so that
I can of course tell & e.g. help us
all 3 realise how & when to become whatever symbols of, what's a good
future, in my own case due to & as
the necessary result to be of a complicated thing, I still don't know, don't think, if I can explain
to myself, greetings, 'J.A.' is just my favorite pet name, please,, most certainly to be continued!

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